James Nien and his family in Kenya James Nien with his Kenyan-based wife Chudier and daughter Nyanok.Supplied: James Nien
Former refugee launches crowdfunding appeal to reunite family in Kenya in Central Queensland
James Nien survived abduction and war to create a new life in Australia 17 years ago, but has now had to turn to crowdfunding to bring his wife and young daughter to live with him in Central Queensland.
Born in South Sudan, Mr Nien was kidnapped and forced into service as a child solder in the 1980s.
He managed to escape and as a refugee he settled in Australia in 2000.
As an Australian citizen for the past 14 years, he works as a gambling councillor with Relationships Australia.
On a trip to visit family in Africa in 2011, during a brief period of peace and South Sudan’s independence, he met Chudier.
After only two years of independence, war erupted again in 2013 between South Sudan and an Islamist cell.
“That war was very painful, very destructive,” Mr Nien said.
“My in-laws escaped to a refugee camp [in Nairobi, Kenya], living with my wife.
“There’s nowhere they can go, it’s dangerous even in Kenya. People have been kidnapped.
“The longer they live there the more they’re going to be traumatised.”
Most of James’ salary goes to support Chudier and their 14 month old daughter, Nyanok, as well as child support for his Australian son from an earlier marriage.
That financial responsibility means he is unable to pay the immigration visa charges to bring his family to Australia which amounts to $10,000 for Chudier, $3,000 for Nyanok, plus $4,000 medical and travel expenses.
“It’s very emotionally and mentally hard,” Mr Nien said.
“I can’t go to the government and say ‘I need my family here, I’m a citizen’. I have to fulfil my obligation of paying their visa.
“I’m in between the system and my family. The process needs this money.”
Having exhausted other options such as taking out a loan, Mr Nien turned to crowdfunding to cover the expenses before the fees for visas rise in July.
“It was not easy, because I have very strong pride,” he said. “But I don’t have any choice left, this is my last resort.
“I work hard here. Living in Australia we can be together and this job will sustain us like any other Australian family.”